Mossel Bay Honey Project wins UN Award

Mossel Bay-based Why Honey? has been named a winner in the SEED Awards for 2011.

Hastings Chikoko, Head of IUCN South Africa, and Head of Constituency Support and Communications for Eastern and Southern Africa, Why Honey? director Riaan Bosch, and Lucy Morassutti, national sales director for Hisense South Africa, at the SEED Awards conference in Johannesburg, where Why Honey? received its SEED Award for 2011.

The SEED Initiative For Entrepreneurship in Sustainable Development (SEED stands for Sustainable Economic and Environmental Development) – which is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) – was founded in 2002 by UNEP, UNDP and the IUCN to contribute towards the Millennium Development Goals and to similar commitments made at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Thirty five innovative start-up ventures in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe were selected for the 2011 SEED Awards.

Unlike other awards, the SEED Awards aren’t just about money – rather, emphasis is placed on providing assistance and advice on developing and improving the winners’ business plans; profiling winning initiatives at national, regional, and international level; and providing access to relevant institutions, organisations, and businesses (including SEED winners and alumni, SEED Partners, SEED Supporters, and SEED Associates).

The Awards also include in-country workshops that involve all partners and cover the key elements and factors needed to build successful social and environmental enterprises – while winners receive grants of US $5,000 which, by agreement with SEED, go towards implementing certain items in the individual companies’ support plans.

Why Honey? founder Riaan Bosch said that he’s been planning the project since 2008.

“Our goal is to create an environmentally friendly, sustainable fynbos honey production program for the Southern Cape – which produces probably the most unique honey, and certainly has the most unique species of honey bees anywhere in the world.”

Mr. Bosch said that the local Cape honey bee – Apis mellifera capensis – produces a unique product since they harvest pollen from the flowers of the fynbos.

The fynbos – or Cape macchia – is part of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, and includes between 6,000 and 9,000 species of flowering plants. The Cape Floristic Kingdom is the smallest of the world’s six Floristic Kingdoms, and is the only one that’s contained within the borders of a single country.

An in-country workshop for Why Honey? was presented by Klaus Pilgrim at PetroSA’s Centre for Excellence earlier this year. Mr. Pilgrim is a retired economist from Frankfurt in Germany, and is now working as a technical consultant for SEED.

“Why Honey? is an interesting and unusual new enterprise that produces honey of the highest quality,” he said.

“What they need to do, though, is to put more stress on the health benefits of the product, and for that we are arranging to send their honey to independent laboratories in Germany for further analysis.”

Mr. Bosch said that the beekeeping programme will empower more than forty local people over the next 2 years – some of whom will be trained as beekeepers and removers, while others will learn how to harvest and process the honey.

“But we’re also going to train tour guides.

“We’re working with the Oyster Bay Reserve – which is a fynbos reserve, and which houses some of our hives – because we’re planning to develop bee-keeping and fynbos tours which will complement the fynbos, honey and beekeeping interpretive centre that we’re planning for a venue in Voorbaai,” he said.

Why Honey? is also able to resolve problems that honey bees can cause.

“For example, wild bees were building hives in all sorts of inconvenient places at Pinnacle Point Beach and Golf Estate – which is built in a fynbos area. So we placed a number of hives in strategic locations there, and now the bees and the residents are living quite happily side by side.”

Bees, he said, are vital to food security.

“Scientists have determined that the human race would only have enough food for four years if every bee on the planet was wiped out: just as much as the natural environment relies on them, we need them for pollinating our crops.”

Beverly Boer, of the Mossel Bay Environmental Partnership (MEP) said that Why Honey? was chosen out of a shortlist of 82 initiatives from around the world.

“The Award is a recognition of the company’s achievements in innovation and entrepreneurship, and of its promising efforts to promote economic growth, social development and environmental protection in South Africa – and not least for its potential to inspire others,” she said.

She added that Why Honey? is an MEP partner, and that her organisation has played a supportive, advisory, and coordinating role in the project thus far.

“MEP coordinated the SEED workshop – and we’ll be helping to develop the Why Honey? business plan,” she said.

Mossel Bay Tourism’s chairman, René Bongers, congratulated Why Honey? on winning the Award – which was presented during a conference in Johannesburg earlier this month.

“You’ve helped to put the town on the international map once more – and we’re looking forward to seeing the launch of your new and unique responsible tourism products,” he said.

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